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Great news! The New Year’s Eve winter storm has finally put Northern Lower Michigan in play for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers.
Snow cover still remains anemic across Southern Lower Michigan, but at least you can play if you head north. Don’t delay though, as the trail base isn’t that deep and warmer temperatures will quickly flood Michigan this weekend. Here’s what we have statewide as of Jan. 2:
Right now, 75 percent of the state is covered with snow with an average snow depth of 4.6 inches. Last year at this time, 99 percent of the state was covered with snow.
December 2018 was a warm one, and that directly impacted snow amounts across the state. Temperatures were 3.3 degrees warmer than average for the month in Grand Rapids and the entire state and region experienced above average temperatures overall.
Of course, this has had a significant influence on the amount of snow we received. So far this year we are running a foot below average in terms of snowfall. Grand Rapids hasn’t had an inch or more of snowfall in a calendar day since Nov. 26! This led to the sixth least snowy December on record in Grand Rapids. Note the comparison in terms of snowfall in 2018 versus 2017.
Here’s the snow depth across the state as of Jan. 2. A clipper moving through will bring most areas an additional 1 to 4 inches of snow from I-96 north Wednesday afternoon/evening.
Here’s a few snow depth reports from various cities/towns in Northern Lower Michigan:
Houghton Lake: 3 inches
Cheboygan: 4 inches
Traverse City and Cadillac: 5 inches
Alpena and Charlevoix: 6 inches
Petoskey and East Jordan: 7 inches
Gaylord and Kalkaska: 8 inches
And for the Upper Peninsula:
St. Ignace: 3 inches
Newberry: 4 inches
Paradise: 5 inches
Sault Ste. Marie: 6 inches
Munising: 8 inches
Grand Marais and Houghton: 12 inches
Marquette: 16 inches
Calumet: 19 inches
Painesdale: 23 inches
As I alluded to earlier, if you are a snowmobiler, take advantage of the snow as soon as possible. Snow-melting temperatures will invade Michigan this weekend, especially Friday and Saturday.
Snow-melting high temperatures on Friday and Saturday will be accompanied with sunshine.
Temperatures will cool a bit across Northern Michigan on Sunday behind a weak cold front.
Arctic air will be scarce, as it appears, at least until mid-January.
The question remains: when will we break into more consistent winter conditions? I thought we would do it right around the turn of the New Year. Begrudgingly, it appears it will hold off until mid-to-late January. The latest CFS model indicates that from Jan. 21 through Jan. 31, colder-than-average temperatures will take hold.
There isn’t any snow forecasted from Jan. 4 through Jan. 6. Monday shows potential, though.
Here’s the 10-day forecast from the European model through Jan. 11, which hints at the highest snow potential across Northern Michigan:
The GFS 10-day model forecast isn’t as robust in terms of snow, but it still has some similar amounts across Southern Lower Michigan.
Since I do not think the pattern will change much until mid-January, I want to end on a positive. I think much colder and snowier conditions will arrive the second half of the month and the latest 32-day snowfall forecast from the European model hints at this. Once we flip this pattern, I think it will hit and hold right into February (at least).
The ski resorts, especially north of Grand Rapids, are looking great with fresh natural snow earlier in the week. Many have groomed their cross-country trails for the first time this season.
Snowmobilers rejoice as we can finally take advantage of trails south of the Mighty Mac! Checking in with the Cadillac trail report, it indicates trails range from thin to good. Trail 6, 37 and 637 best around LPL. Fellow riders have noticed trails improve moving closer to Thompsonville.. None are groomed.
From Grayling, Mio, Petoskey and Gaylord, area sledders are reporting good riding, especially considering what it has been.
Very little snow fell across the U.P. from the New Year Eve storm, so trail conditions have not changed much up there. St. Ignace to Sault Ste. Marie is not good at all. From Newberry to the north, trails are holding their own. Paradise has reported lots of sledders and they have been reporting that the trails are best west of town towards the Bear Trap.
Some ice was reported around 12 Mile Beach near the lakeshore. I have a friend that has been snowmobiling the Munising/Christmas area and he has been pleased. Groomers around the AuTrain area are reporting thin spots around Brownstone.
The trail system throughout Michigan has not had enough snow to establish a hardy base, so fellow sledders need to be mindful. Even though there’s enough snow across Northern Lower Michigan, many spots still are not deep enough to groom. Good advice would be not to slide/lock up track into turns and don’t peg the throttle out of them.
On a side note, I talked with a friend who’s family has a cottage on Higgins Lake. He said Higgins is not frozen yet, but there is 8 to 10 inches of ice on the much shallower Houghton Lake. He said there are a lot of ice fisherman on the lake. Hopefully, they can hold on to that snow and ice in time for Tip-Up-Town the weekends of Jan. 18 to 20 and 25 to 27.
Thanks for reading, and think snow!